Tag Archives: RVing

Migration Home – Fifth Stop Crater of Diamond State Park Arkansas

Crater of Diamonds

We left Gillham Lake area and headed east. We were on a mission. Hubby dearest wanted to see the old volcano site where melted pieces of a microcontinent he had just been reading about can be walked upon. I was out to get us to a place outside the latest hatched yellow severe storm area on the NOAA map. The dogs were just along for the ride. Klinger wanted to see our washing machine get a good workout. Actually, we took a short cut along a marginally shorter route according to our GPS. They say short cuts lead to long delays. In this case it led to feline motion sickness. The trip went up, down, up, down, swerve right, up, swerve left, down and similar twists and turns for three hours.  Now I know Mother Google says it takes 1 hour and 22 minutes but Mother Google does not adjust for pulling a trailer on turns that would be tight for Le Car, never mind a 30 foot travel trailer. I should have known better. Never take a short cut while pulling a travel trailer. We arrived and went in to set up. Thank goodness we were pulling into a full service campsite because Klinger got sick. That would be bad enough but his favourite place to ride when we travel is under the covers in our bed. I shall leave the rest to your imagination.

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Dick snapped the shot of me by their sign just after I went to check on the cat. And that says it all. One of my friends commented I must really love that cat. Yes, I do, but some days more than others. This park has a reasonable WIFI. After the laundry was done and the bed remade, we spent our first night catching up on email and following on the weather channel as severe storms drop tornados north, and west of us. (Gilliam Lake area was under a warning for a while so I was really happy we didn’t stay on there.) We got some rain but nothing else. The next morning we got up early to head down to the diamond mine and try our luck at getting rich quick by finding a diamond.

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Between hauling buckets of gravel for me to wash, Dick struck up a conversation with a friendly fellow from Ohio who was off work and looking for a quick buck. He was one of the semi pro types who pay their ten dollars and come in and sift through the volcano gravel every day here, over and over again. He was a friendly fellow and soon was giving us all kinds of tips and sharing his story. He also had pictures of various small diamonds he had already found on previous trips. I would hardly call it a get rich quick scheme since it was all much harder physically than we expected, but he does find enough diamonds to justify his daily $10.00 entrance fee and he’ll only need to need to strike a big one once and he can retire. Most of the people were just visitors with kids and only the semi pro types actually work very hard. The children really love it because they can get mucky and wet with everyone’s blessings. There was much happy kid noise.

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We picked our gravel in the runnels from the overnight rain. We figured any mother lode diamond would be easier to spot in running water. We paid particular attention to a semi permanent streamlet from a drainage pipe.SAM_9299 I did find a lovely perfectly clear quartz crystal I got very excited over for about 30 seconds until I decided it was quartz. That made me feel a bit silly. I took it to be identified, just in case, on our way out and the rock identifier lady also got very excited for about 30 seconds before announcing it was just quartz. That made me feel better. After only three hours of this I was thoroughly wet, mucky, and cold. A toddler had a temper tantrum nearby and I knew exactly how the poor little girl was feeling.

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We finished the day by a trip to the gift shop. Across from the gift shop is a science and history display of the diamond mine. Dick was disappointed to note nothing about the microfossils or the microcontinent. He started to tell the nice lady at the gift shop about how their science section was out of date and needs updating. She gave him a comment card and told him to write it all down and leave it in the box. She even seemed really fascinated by what Dick was saying. I was impressed. Well bred southern ladies are a special treat to interact with.

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Before bed we took the dogs on the exceptionally nice trail from our campsite down to the river. It was a wide paved trail accessible for wheelchairs and particularly scenic and lovely. The dogs enjoyed their walk as much as we did.

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We left on the third day after deciding we would try Oklahoma now. By the map, it looked to be easier on our tranny and our cat. On our way out, Dick dropped off the comment card with careful details about how their science section was out of date, appropriate references to bring it up to date and an offer to help, complete with his contact information. Just outside of the state park we stopped at several really delightful second hand/antique/touristy/vintage stores for a couple of hours and spent too much money and had a real blast doing it. And so I can highly recommend Crater of Diamonds State Park even if you don’t find a diamond.

And I was right about the drainage ditch. We saw this only a bit later.  Boy finds huge 7.44 carat diamond in Arkansas state park. Watching him on TV, we could see he found this beauty right at the spot we had been gathering our gravel. I am happy for him. (Jealous yes, but happy for him.)

We took pictures this time but I forgot to write a proper review. It’s a really nice campground, full service, inexpensive, reasonable WIFI, easy to get around. I do recommend it. They have not yet contacted Dick about their out of date science display so be sure to keep in mind you are standing only a few miles above a wonderful microcontinent full of microfossils if you go. We headed off to Oklahoma with the cat in the cat carrier sitting in the bathtub. He was not a happy camper.

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Migration Home – Fourth Stop Gilliam Lake Arkansas

Gilham Lake

We left Louisiana and headed north into Arkansas. The interstate soon became a rather pleasant four lane divided highway through one small town after another. The terrain went from flat to rolling hills that border on small mountains. We travelled along the Red River of the South. We stopped at the MacDonald’s in DeQueen for a snack and checked the internet for more details. I had a map of Army Corp of Engineer sites in the state so I knew approximately where we were going. Our dog Fred had not been swimming for some time so I wanted us to be well out of gator country. Imagine my surprise to read that alligators once ranged all over this region but were extirpated by settlers and overhunting. They have been gradually recovering and expanding their old territory. We had to get north of DeQueen to be sure we had no possibility of our Fred have a close encounter of the toothy kind. After comparing facilities we decided on Gillham Lake.

We missed the turn at Gillham. Our GPS didn’t seem to like going that way and we didn’t see the sign until we were driving past it. The interstate was now a plain old two lane road going up and down and up and down with a lot of trucks and no place to turn. We got to Grannis before we could turn around and the map, and another unobtrusive sign, showed us another road in. We now got to experience Arkansas backroads. I had noticed before that these Arkansas types seemed to go in for really big trucks, like 250 and 350 deisels with their RV rigs. I learned why on this trip. The roads went down at ridiculous angles and then came back up at such steep grades I had to shift the truck into the lowest gear and the temperature on the transmission began creeping up the hill with us. Pretty country, lovely little farms, cattle herds of about twenty animals, horses, chickens, and up down, up down, up down, with an occasional rapid turn. We reached the campground and then we were kind of stumped. There were three sites marked on signs and no directions as to which one we should go. We tried Little Coon Creek first. After a very steep three mile drive of up-downs, crazy twists and riding the brakes a lot, we found it was just a few campsites on either side of the road. No one else was there. We used one campsite to turn around. We went back up the hill, paused to let the tranny cool again, and then tried Big Coon Creek. The road did not have as many twists and turns but that last hill down into the campground was a shocker. The steepest hill yet leading right into a small beach. I wondered how many people ended up in the lake. This was much nicer though! We pulled into site 19 which had the loveliest view of the lake and settled in as it got dark.

We stayed three days and we had a wonderful time. We took the canoe out. We ended up following the shoreline because of all the high speed boating traffic that nearly capsized us more than once with big wakes. The geology of the region was really fascinating. Wonderful pink and orange sandstone and granite layers that were shoved up to at least a 45 degree angle to make the hills. We had a lot of discussion between about the geology the area. By an interesting coincidence, Dick was reading a paper on origin of life and it included references to some ancient fossils from a microcontinent under the area we were in. That led to us really appreciating the geology we were seeing while imagining a microcontinent miles below.

We were still seeing lots of the birds we see nesting back at home. It seemed we were migrating home with nuthatches, pileated wood peckers, blue jays, wrens, warblers, eagles, ducks, geese, loons, crows, and orioles. What a pleasure to travel north with these lovely little birds. (Sorry no pictures as we were relaxing too much.) In addition to many colourful birds we were treated to many colourful wildflowers.

We had several long walks. One real treat was the folks next door invited us to join them at their campfire and we had the nicest visit. They were local people and they were able to fill us in on a lot of details of the history and nature of the park. We were going to stay longer in Big Coon but our campfire hosts told us about how this campground got flooded after heavy rain just the year before. They had barely gotten their own rig out while that lake rose up 70 feet in less than twenty four hours. There was rain in the forecast so they were going to leave a day early to avoid a repeat.

We  were finally able to let Fred have a nice long swim and he had such a good time. Unfortunately there were some rough rocks and he cut himself so we went home from the beach with him seeping blood. Once we were back I carefully cleaned the wound, applied antibiotic ointment and wrapped it up in layers of bandages and a final top layer of duct tape. For some reason duct tape makes a very fine doggy bandage. When you change the bandage the tape comes off easily without pulling out hair. Bonus, judging by the expression Fred makes if he licks at it, it tastes too horrible to put any serious effort into chewing it off. These days you can buy duct tape in every imaginable colour. I had white on hand because I had to repair the cover of the air conditioner on the inside and the white duct tape didn’t look quite so… well duct tapey. I know most of us who have rigs end up with ones largely held together by duct tape, but it is considered tacky and redneck. I also had standard grey duct tape because, well, grey is the standard you can buy in bulk. I wrapped Fred’s foot in grey because it matches his fur best.

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We drove up to see the third campsite, Cassatot Reefs, which is easily the loveliest of the three campsites at Gilliam Lake. I have a passionate love of the sound of water over rocks. and so we decided we would move to that site and stay for a week and enjoy the running water. Cassatot Reefs is below the dam and not subject to flooding. We packed up to move. Getting back up the hill meant driving in the lowest gear with four wheel drive on and there was an even bigger hill on the shortest route from Big Coon Lake to Cassatot Reefs. We decided to just take the easier road into DeQueen and take the trailer along with us and drive the longer easier other road back into Cassatot Reefs. The Talmud says “Men plan, God laughs.” This was proven to us again.

We got to the same Macdonalds and had a snack while we went on line. I always check the weather first. I was concerned to see that Cassatot Reefs was not just expecting heavy rain. It was in that dreaded yellow hatched area on the NOAA map meaning severe weather was possible. Meanwhile Hubby Dearest had discovered that an old volcano had brought up melted lava chunks of that microcontinent and deposited it up at our level. Looking for another campground we found one called Crater of Diamonds State Park which was located right on that old volcano site. It was also outside the hatched weather danger. And so we decided to skip more of Cassatot Reefs. We left moving east outside of the yellow hatching to try our luck diamond hunting.

This is my review of the Gilliam Lake Campground.

Gilliam Lake is a smallish dammed lake built by the Army Corp of Engineers. It has three campground sites. We visited all three during our stay. Two are above the dam on the lake and lead to boat ramps. Little Coon Creek is simply 10 sites, all back in, on both sides of the road down to the lake just before a large boat ramp. There is very little to recommend these sites if you are not a fisherman but the lots are big and spacious and all were empty when we were there. It has modern washrooms and showers. Big Coon Creek is on the next lake inlet and also above the dam and it has some 31 sites, all back in. It was mostly full when we were there. It is a fisherman’s dream with room for a big rig, a big boat trailer, and a truck. All the sites are paved and have a barbecue and fire pit. The washrooms are new and clean. There are also showers with abundant hot water. There is a nice sandy beach and four playground structures including one in the water at the beach. Although both campgrounds are above the dam, Gillham Lake itself is infamous for rising many feet in under 24 hours in heavy rain. The locals told us you have to watch the weather and be ready to clear out fast if it rains heavily because the campgrounds will be underwater with little warning. We saw plenty of evidence that is is the case in the form of high water lines and deposited logs on the shores. One women told us about pulling her rig out in pouring rain and high water and barely making it just last year. The third campsites is Cassatot Reefs and it is on the Cassatot river below the dam. This 30 site campground is the largest of the three campsites because it is strung along the river just past the spillway with most of the sites overlooking the river. It is a pleasant and pretty stretch with long cement walkways by a park-like setting on the river bank with benches and swings. The campsites are set high above the flood plain on a ridge. There are three sets of pretty little rapids between deep pools. These campsites are smaller and older and do not have room for a separate boat and trailer in addition to a rig. There is a canoe launch and the current runs swiftly. These campsites are also mostly not paved but are packed gravel. Washrooms and showers are older style flush toilets. The dam was built to protect downstream houses and so of the three, this campground below the dam is the least likely to flood. I was alarmed to hear just last year the lake was full right up to the top of the dam which makes me wonder if water could flow right over the dam, given enough rain, but apparently this has not ever happened. We watched a grader repairing the dam above the current water line and a lot of evidence that the local who told us about last year’s flooding was not exaggerating. The roads into all this campground are about 3-4 miles of very deep drops and very steep hills that required I use 4 wheel drive and low gear to climb. These roads were really narrow and curvy in a few places. Not for driving by the faint hearted, an overloaded rig or one with poor brakes! Both Big Coon and Little Coon are served by a single dump site at the park entrance so you have to haul your full tanks up the hills to dump. Cassatot Reefs has its own dump site also at the top of the hills. There are two additional boat launches into the lake in addition to the ones at the campsites and due to the large number of high powered boats going at very high speed in this small lake there are a lot of wakes and noisy traffic. We therefore found canoeing to be a challenge. I enjoyed our stay and it was interesting to meet dedicated fishermen but I am not sure we’ll come back again.

And this is how far we have come on our slow migration home.

Gillham Lake

Migration Home – Second Stop Petrified Forest Mississippi

Our second stop was at the Mississippi Petrified Forest Campground. Being scientists, we tend to get excited about stuff like fossils and other unusual places which appeal to Geeks and Nerds. This place is a National Landmark but it is not a National Park so no discount but we stopped in anyway. It was an impulse thing. Dick saw this place on the map and said he wanted to see it. The times Google gives for driving have no connection to reality when you are pulling a trailer and have a husband, two elderly dogs and a cat to worry about. It was getting late. I was tired of driving. We decided to check it out. Sometimes an impulse stop like this is a disaster but sometimes great stuff happens and this was a good impulse detour.

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On arrival we decided to stay for two nights. We had two reasons. One was due a pet accident, we had some more laundry to do that really couldn’t wait. [*big sigh*] Since this was a full service campground with the sewer hook up, we could do it ourselves in our portable washer. Second the weather was for rain and cold and the possibility of storms further west. It seemed like a good idea to let that happen without us being nearby. The next morning the weather was indeed drizzle and rain. The TV antenna picked up a local station with radar so we watched for a rain free spot and then took the petrified forest walk mid afternoon while north and west folks were dashing for their storm shelters.

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The gift shop has pamphlets you get to do a self guiding tour which begins with a neat historical context display. Each spot is clearly numbers and you read the booklet and learn new things. It wasn’t pouring rain during our walk but the trees were dripping so our decision to wear rain gear was correct.

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I liked how you can get right up close and touch the petrified logs, some of them were really huge.

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There were many examples of petrified wood, large, small, complex, simple, colourful and beautiful. The booklet gave us detailed background on the history of the discovery of the forest and explanations like why certain colours appear on some  logs.

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Not only was the petrified forest a treat to see, the living forest around and above us was also lovely. Since we are both amateur botanists we enjoyed that almost as much. We also saw a lot of birds and a deer.SAM_9208

We spent a good two hours on the guided tour walk and then it started to rain again. I was not too bothered though because with the rain, we found we were alone on the walk. (Note that about 1/3 of the walk (with the best parts) was wheelchair/stroller accessible.) The walk ends by going through the indoor displays and then the gift shop. The indoor displays were wonderful. Short of the Smithsonian, I have never seen such a varied display of minerals from around the world in one spot. We really enjoyed that. They even had amethyst and fossils from back home!

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Last stop was the gift shop. When you have as many grandchildren to buy for as we do, a place with neat stuff that kids like is always appreciated. No doubt the owners also appreciated our devotion to the grandkids. We picked out a really nice very small sample of the petrified wood for ourselves. We left with our treasures and the owners positively beaming at us.

That was the second stop on our slow migration home. We took five days to go across three states and travel about 500 miles or 805 km. Next stop, Louisiana!

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Here is my review of the campground:

We pulled in on a whim because we are fossil fans. The Petrified Forest is privately owned and has an attached campsite with room for eleven rigs. They charge a modest $22/night. The full service campsites are neat, clean, well maintained. A maintenance worker came by for morning clean up and check on things. An employee came by in the afternoon to make sure that all was well. The road are narrow and the turns on the one big loop are a little on the tighter side but not impossible for our rig. There were no trees and hazards near the road. The roads themselves were surface washed out in a few spots but there was also a lot of fresh gravel as if being on a hillside it is a constant struggle to keep the roads from washing out. The setting is overall beautiful trees and shady. Some campsites are close together, most are widely spaced. There are both pull throughs and back ins. There are some longer term residents but the owners limit those to 6 months and I presume they are employees because their rigs were all neat and newer. There was a long list of rules but none onerous for a short term stay. We were originally sent to #7 but the very nice lady checking us in said we could change to #8 if we wanted to. This was a good thing because #8 was not long enough for our rig to find a level spot without unhitching. There was no wifi available. The trail through the petrified forest is well laid out and a pleasant walk of 45 minutes with a written guide to the sights. It is available for a discounted fee of $5 if you are camping there. If you like fossils and minerals, they have one of the best selections that I have seen in one place in their museum and gift shop. Overall a very good value and we were pleased with our stay. I wouldn’t go out of my way to stay here again, but it was well worth stopping and seeing once.

Winter is coming.

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For various reasons we decided to head south December 1 this year. We knew we were taking a bit of chance weather wise and we weren’t entirely lucky. We left Alonsa after freezing rain and our original planned path through Bismarck was quite literally shut down due to a heavy snowfall. So we were stuck trying to head south along the infamous I29 corridor. I say infamous for a few reasons. It is the most boring drive in the world. It bypasses just about anything neat fun or interesting in North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Missouri. There are miles and miles of nothing but flat prairie. It is also infamous because in winter weather entire sections can be shut down. And if you are in a camper there is very little in the way of open campgrounds in December. It is also a major trucking corridor so you spend most of the drive wincing as the big truckers pass you by.

The first hour of of Alonsa was hellish because we were driving on sheer ice. I was so glad we had just put on new snow tires and had four wheel drive. Even then I could not go over 60km/hr (40mph) without the trailer starting to fishtail in a frightening way. So a drive we made many times over the summer in 20 minutes took over an hour. Once we got to McCreary the roads were wet not icy so we were finally able to hit 90k/hr (55mph). We made a pit stop to have our wheel re-torqued after the new snow tire installation and then we headed south. We took the Yellowhead into Portage La Prairie and then headed out joining up with with 75 in Morris.  We arrived at the border about 4:00pm. To our delight, this time we were waved right through. You never know what you will encounter at the border. Sometimes we get searched, sometimes we have to produce paperwork. This time all we got was a cheerful “Have a nice trip” and we were over the border. The road was clear and we were eager to get further south so we drove until we reached Fargo. In Fargo we joined about 10 other RVers parking in the Flying J. Apparently we aren’t the only snowbirds to wait for December 1. I actually like staying on truck stops. Most truck drivers are polite and professional. Always fun new stuff to see. The time it was the biggest dump truck I ever saw. We had a nice big American breakfast at the Huddle House.

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We then headed south to North Sioux City South Dakota where there is a year round KOA. We decided we needed an oil change before moving on so we had a side trip into Iowa to a service place before we continued south. It had still not gone above freezing so we arrived with ice and snow on our trailer. We rolled into another year round KOA in Kansas City Missouri about 8:00pm and finally it was above freezing. Our trailer began dripping as the ice and snow melted. We continued dripping and shedding ice and snow as we followed the I29 south and then veered off for a side trip through Oklahoma. It was a joy to finally leave the standard campground behind and stay at a state park. It was fun to see new territory in Oklahoma. I even felt a genuine Oklahoma earthquake, a gentle rattle and roll from a nearby 3.9. KOAs have their place in RV life and I do like them but not day after day. Plus the KOAs cost more and the campsite in Lake Eufaula State Park was huge, gorgeous and only $26 and we had a grand total of five other campers in the huge place. It rained all night. We woke up to find the ice and snow had finally melted away and the rain washed our trailer and truck clean. From there we travelled to Mt Pleasant Texas for a two day overnight break at another KOA. We had a breakfast meeting with a colleague, a much needed long walk on green grass with the dogs, laundry and quiet.

So that was it. Instead of a nice leisurely trip stopping to see sights along the way and taking our time, we did a straight flying trip south as fast as possible of 2300km running away from winter. And I woke up to news this morning that home has been totally socked in by a mega all out blizzard. So we didn’t leave ourselves a lot of room weather wise by leaving in December.

Will we do it again? I’m not sure. This part of our trip was not fun. It was all about getting south. We saved a lot of money by waiting an extra month and a half in terms of health care costs and our weak Canadian dollar against the American dollar. We got to enjoy our cosy home in Alonsa and the company of our friends for an extra month and a half. But it does take the joy out of the trip south. So we may not do this next year. We shall see.

Rushing River Ontario Provincial Park

Rushing River is arguably the loveliest and most popular of the many lovely and popular provincial parks in Ontario. I say that because for many local families camping and going to Rushing River are synonymous. Due to this, you simply can’t get in during summer without a reservation. The location is what makes the place so special. Dogtooth Lake is a lovely lake with deep clear cool water, perfect for water skiing, or tubing. Where the lake narrows and empties, it creates a river that goes over many small rapids and past many deep pools as it eventually finds its way to Lake of the Woods. Beyond that the water will enter the drainage system to Lake Winnipeg and from there to the Hudson Bay and the arctic ocean going north.

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My grandson Luke with part of the first rapids in the background at Rushing River. (Picture by Anne Marquez-Hunstad)

In several places small beaches with fine sand have formed in calm spots, perfect for a toddler to splash in, especially in late afternoon after the sun has warmed the otherwise briskly cool water in the little bay. There are also natural wild places which challenge the strongest swimmer with water reportedly 25 feet or more deep, sheer cliffs of 5 metres that you can run and jump off into very deep water and giant rock islands you can swim to and then crawl up and sit in the sun to warm up or use as diving towers. It’s also a perfect place to launch a canoe or kayak. Inflatables are practically required here. Big red booms crossing the top of the rapids in the swimming area keep the inflatables and their passengers on the proper side of the rapids.

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Dick and my son Alan and Luke and Noah help haul the canoe and the inflatables from the beach back to our campsite.

The river does indeed rush. It also gurgles, splashes, tinkles, roars and thunders depending on where you stand. The lake is set in granite rock of the Canadian shield and there is little in the way of soil. Scrubby pines and spruce cling to sheer drops and granite faces. Extensive woods on both sides mean abundant wildlife, especially birds and game fish. While out walking the dogs near the water’s edge I saw a trout that must have been four or five pounds lounging in a shallow pool. This is a place where when they say put your food away because of bears, they are not kidding.

 

The park encircles the area where the lake narrows and the includes the first two sets of rapids. The individual lots range from huge grassy pull-throughs to tiny little spots on granite where you can barely fit a two man tent. There are four campgrounds and they also vary. Two are right near the rapids and have showers and flush toilets, playgrounds, and all amenities. Two of the campgrounds are further away from the rapids wrapping around the lake. Lots of the roads are paved and there are steep hills and flat areas making it perfect for my 11 year old grandson to go biking with his BMX type trick bike. There are several trails to walk, from the easiest flat type a toddler or someone in a wheelchair can manage to long demanding trails of several kilometres. One day when my husband and I felt the need for a time out from the delightful constant demands of the children, we took the lower rapids trail which is partly stairs and wooden paths but it still a very wild and demanding to walk. Since it was late summer, hints of fall colour were already present. The wildflowers were spectacular and we saw a beaver munching in a pool. Dick did take a spill and got all muddy but he was unhurt. We traveled with one son, his wife and their two sons and one other grandson. We also made one afternoon trip into the city of Kenora which is about a half an hour away and is right on Lake of the Woods. Kenora has fancy hotels and lodges if camping is not your schtick.

We had such a wonderful time we want to go again every year and get the rest of the family to come as well.

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Visiting with the grandchildren means endless rounds of ball chasing, wrestling, lots of delicious normally off limits dropped (and occasionally snatched) food like hot dogs and bacon strips and marshmallows. Fred also loves swimming and at Rushing River there were lots of places he could swim without worrying about gators or sharks even though the official beaches are off limits to dogs. On our way home after the trip, Fred checks the air and sighs a big sigh. He had a wonderful time but we all arrived home simultaneously exhausted and refreshed.

 

Home Again

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We pulled into our Manitoba home late on March 13, 2016. We got in two days ahead of schedule. We just wanted to be home so when we left Sisseton SD we just kept driving. We crossed the border into Canada at Selkirk about 4:00pm. Each time we cross they check something different. This crossing it was making sure our pet’s papers were all in order. This is why you need to be fully prepared for anything because you just never know what they will test you on. Of course our pets papers, along with all our other papers, were in order so they let us back in.

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We arrived home to winter. Even though spring has arrived further south it’s really just end of winter here. I have to admit I planned it this way on purpose. I wanted to see our Alonsa home in winter. We have been five years now without winter and in a very weird way I have sort of missed it. Plus coming home early meant we saved about $600 in out of country health insurance which also offset some of the costs of having our dollar plunge to 0.68 of the USA dollar. The other thing I was curious about is I have had three full years without a single asthma attack requiring a trip to the hospital. My allergist attributed that to being away from snow mould. I guess I wanted to test to see if my lungs have healed instead of just functioning without exposure to snow mould. So far so good! We were also worried about our little house. I must admit feeling some resentment about that. We had five years of being worry free about the stick house and now we have this anchor which also at times feels like a burden. It was a relief to back into our own driveway and see out little stick house is still standing.

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We promised ourselves we would not try to move into the house that night. We were going to just stay the night in the trailer and then move in the morning. Well that didn’t work out. We were so excited to be home we moved right in anyway even though it was almost midnight. Everything was fine. Well sort of. Houses require maintenance and when you leave for months, repairs pile up. We found our kitchen sink’s tap is leaking and will require replacement. Our furnace wasn’t working properly. The neighbours who had been so kindly watching our house for us told us it had started acting funny just two days before and since we were so close to home and the weather was above freezing, and it was making enough heat to keep it warm enough to not freeze, they would leave it for us to deal with.

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The dogs and cat acted like they knew immediately where they were. Fred in particular seemed to be quite happy to be home and the first time we turned our back, he promptly took off to tour the town. He strolled back home about two hours later after setting every dog in the town off barking at him as he came by to say hello.

Snow snow snow blanketed everything. My garden is frozen. The ground is slushy/frozen mess. We dug out winter coats first thing for our daily walks. We then spent the next few days unpacking the trailer and settling back into our stick house. We got an electrician to come and fix our furnace ($80) then the guy to drain our holding tank and check if it needed thawing ($85) and the plumber who had fixed our sump pump while we were away and drained our flooded basement dropped off his bill ($141.25). We learned how to wash dishes fetching water from the tub instead of starting the flood in the kitchen sink again. We did a temporary fix on one deadbolt that failed over the winter until we can get to town to buy a new one. We have two screen doors to fix. One will likely have to be replaced, not fixed. Wind blew them both open and ripped out the frame of one and the door pull of the other. We will make do until we get a chance to go to town and find a good deal. We will check out the “ReNuz It” store and see if they have a nice screen door for cheap. I think that kitchen faucet is as old as the house and we want one with a sprayer so I think the result will be an improvement. I did a temporary fix on that one screen door when we first moved in to try to make it do for now so fixing that properly will be an improvement too. Still, I asked my husband more than once to remind me why we bought a stick house again.

There were soon many reminders why a stick house is nice. I have room to rock in my wonderful rocking chair which was waiting right there for me. The house is warm now that the furnace is working properly. I can take a shower or a bath and use as much hot water as I care to. The “big” kitchen is lovely. I can make chile, wait for bread to rise, and make apple crisp without having to play Chinese puzzle with the limited counter space. We got the new washer in place of the old one and it works like a Maytag is supposed to. The little Panda washer spin dryer did its job but it sure is nice to throw in a load and set it and walk away instead of the infernal wash, manual wring, move wet clothing to spin, spin, rinse, manual wring, move wet clothes to spin, spin cycle. The clothesline is still sitting in the corner of the basement. It’s too cold to hang laundry outside.  It sure felt good to carry loads of laundry warm from the dryer upstairs to fold. Even so, it took a full week before I really felt at home again.

There were so many little things still to do. The trailer had to be drained and winterized. Even though it was above freezing when we got home, I knew, being March it would get cold again fast so the third day home I drained the water and put in the RV antifreeze we bought in North Dakota. We went through the whole trailer, taking out anything that might freeze solid. We left the good mattress in for a few days of subzero weather because that kills dust mites and any Florida cockroaches that might have joined us for a trip to Canada. After everything had been thoroughly frozen we changed mattresses. There have been two snowfalls since we got back and that electric blanket means we can turn the thermostat down low at night and snuggle. The trailer needs a full front to back cleaning and reorganization but it’s too cold to even think of that now.

I still have a whole lot to do over the next few weeks. The final sets of proofs for the book are here and need our attention. I started some plants from seeds. I am showing my faith it will warm up and we will have a garden again. I am looking around at the interior of this little house and thinking I need to get at fixing that again. I have promised myself I will not spend another penny on the house until everything I have material purchased for is used up. That mean painting the garage and finishing the bathroom tiles. The truck needs a full inspection, wash and wax, inside and out. There is always something to do, isn’t there?

And there are some special good things. Our internet provider contacted us with the good news that our area now has upgraded service so we can finally enjoy full LTE Wifi for a little bit less than we were paying for the slow stuff! Best of all, our assorted neighbours recognized us and every step outside of the house we are greeted with pleasantries and asked about our trip. We heard all the local news too, a new baby girl in this family, an elderly grandfather who was very ill when we left has passed on. We feel we have a community here and we really like that. And so we are home.